The Black Album – Jay Z
November 14, 2003
Shawn Corey Carter (born December 4, 1969), better known by his stage name Jay-Z (sometimes stylized JAY Z), is an American rapper, record producer, entrepreneur, and occasional actor. He is one of the most financially successful hip-hop artists and entrepreneurs in America. In 2012, Forbes estimated Carter’s net worth at nearly $500 million. He has sold approximately 50 million albums worldwide, while receiving seventeen Grammy Awards for his musical work, and numerous additional nominations. Consistently ranked as one of the greatest rappers of all-time he was ranked #1 by MTV in their list of The Greatest MCs of All-Time in 2006. Two of his albums, Reasonable Doubt (1996) and The Blueprint (2001) are considered landmarks in the genre with both of them being ranked in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
Jay-Z co-owns the 40/40 Club, is part-owner of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets and is also co-creator of the line Rocawear. He is the former CEO of Def Jam Recordings, co-founder of Roc-A-Fella Records, and the founder of Roc Nation. As an artist, he holds the record for most number one albums by a solo artist on the Billboard 200 with twelve. Jay-Z also has had four number ones on the Billboard Hot 100, one as lead artist. On December 11, 2009, Jay-Z was ranked as the 10th-most successful artist of the 2000s by Billboard and ranking as the 5th top solo male artist and as the 4th top rapper behind Eminem, Nelly, and 50 Cent. He was also ranked the 88th-greatest artist of all time by Rolling Stone. He married American R&B singer BeyoncÃ© Knowles in 2008. They have one daughter named Blue Ivy Carter, born in January 2012.
Shawn Carter is originally from Marcy Houses, a housing project in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn in New York City. He and his three siblings were raised by their mother, Gloria Carter, after their father abandoned the family. He claims in his lyrics that in 1982, at the age of 12, he shot his older brother in the shoulder for stealing his jewelry. Carter attended Eli Whitney High School in Brooklyn, along with future rapper AZ, until it was closed down. After that he attended George Westinghouse Career and Technical Education High School in downtown Brooklyn, with fellow future rappers The Notorious B.I.G. and Busta Rhymes, and Trenton Central High School in Trenton, New Jersey, but did not graduate. In his music he refers to having been involved in selling crack cocaine. He has also said he had been shot at three times during this time in his life.
According to his mother, Carter used to wake his siblings up at night banging out drum patterns on the kitchen table. Eventually, she bought him a boom box for his birthday, sparking his interest in music. He began freestyling, writing lyrics, and followed the music of many artists popular at the time. In his neighborhood, Carter was known as “Jazzy”, a nickname that eventually developed into his showbiz/stage name, “Jay-Z”. The moniker is also an homage to his musical mentor, Jaz-O, as well as to the J/Z subway lines that have a stop at Marcy Avenue in Brooklyn.
Jay-Z can briefly be heard on several of Jaz-O’s early recordings in the late 1980s and early 1990s, including “The Originators” and “Hawaiian Sophie”. Jay-Z was also involved in and won several battles with rapper LL Cool J in the early ’90s as part of efforts to get a record deal. He first became known to a wide audience by being featured on the posse cut “Show and Prove” on the 1994 Big Daddy Kane album Daddy’s Home. Jay-Z has been referred to as Big Daddy Kane’s hype man during this period, although Kane explains that he didn’t fill the traditional hype man role, instead “basically ma[king] cameo appearances on stage. When I would leave the stage to go change outfits, I would bring out Jay-Z and Positive K and let them freestyle until I came back to the stage”. The young Jay-Z made an appearance on a popular song by Big L, “Da Graveyard”, and on Mic Geronimo’s “Time to Build”, which also featured early appearances by DMX, and Ja Rule in 1995. His first official rap single was called “In My Lifetime”, for which he released a music video. An unreleased music video was also produced for the B-side, “I Can’t Get With That.”
With no major label to give him a record deal, Jay-Z sold his CDs out of his car and, with Damon Dash and Kareem Biggs, created Roc-A-Fella Records as their own independent label in 1995. After striking a deal with Priority to distribute his material, Jay-Z released his 1996 debut album Reasonable Doubt with beats from acclaimed producers such as DJ Premier and Super DJ Clark Kent and a notable appearance by The Notorious B.I.G.. The album reached number 23 on the Billboard 200, and was generally favored by critics. This album would later be included in Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Albums of All Time” as No.248 and eventually reach platinum status.
After reaching a new distribution deal with Def Jam in 1997, Jay-Z released his follow-up In My Lifetime, Vol. 1. Executively produced by Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs, it sold better than his previous effort. Jay-Z later explained that the album was made during one of the worst periods of his life, he was reeling from the death of his close friend The Notorious B.I.G. The album was a personal revelation for Jay-Z as he spun the tale of his hard knock upbringing. The album’s glossy production stood as a contrast to his first release, and some dedicated fans felt he had “sold out”. However, the album did feature some beats from producers who had worked with him on Reasonable Doubt, namely DJ Premier and Ski. Like its predecessor, In My Lifetime, Vol. 1 earned Platinum status in the United States.
As they say, the rest is history